Thursday, April 27, 2017

~ coffee stains ~




Listening to a folk singer
sing about coffee stains
and love lost and gained.
Forgive me, but I feel more solid
because I refused to break.
Again.
Last time was my fault - 
he gave me the hammer when he pushed
me away.
Amid my dreams of tea leaves,
I have a desire to eat pancakes in bed
with a man who has eyes 
blessed by Odin.
One who likes my unhealed cracks.
The coffee stains have dried,
finally,
and I can breathe better now.
The breaking is broken.






Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Love Letter to Pawpaws





PAWPAWS!

Now that I have your attention . . . .  How many of you know what a pawpaw is?

For the longest time, I had heard of this thing called a pawpaw yet never knew exactly what it was, let alone even tasted one. Thanks to the brilliant writing of Andrew Moore, the mystery is over. Pawpaw, a fruit native to this country, was a staple in the diets of several Native American tribes as well as the settlers who came to this land. Throughout the years, pawpaws enjoyed a nice and well deserved recognition among people who lived in the Middle and Eastern part of the country. With a creamy custard/banana/mango/caramel flavour, pawpaws were THE fruit for a very long time. And then, it almost slid into oblivion.

Andrew Moore has carefully crafted a love letter to pawpaws and I'll be honest - I'm quite smitten with the fruit myself and I have yet to taste one. In his book Pawpaw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit, as published by Chelsea Green Publishing, he takes you by the hand and leads you through America's history by way of the pawpaw. He gives a detailed and interesting journey of the fruit that will leave you drooling and more than ready to eat your first pawpaw. He then continues to share the "love" by meeting up with pawpaw farmers and distributors, attending the Ohio Pawpaw Festival (I'm hoping to attend this year - woot!), and even going "hunting" with legendary people who fell in love with the fruit and never looked back. There is also a serious side to the pawpaw - not only is it nutritious, but it is also a major fighter in the war against cancer. Just let that sink in. A fruit, native to this country, has the possibility to ERADICATE cancer.

(photo from www.eattheweeds.com)

However, it's not just Americans who grow and love the fruit - according to Moore, other countries have taken up the rallying call of the pawpaw to grow it as well. More restaurants, farmers markets, and other establishments are looking into the pawpaw and liking what they see. However, as Moore points out (and this is in my OWN words), pawpaws seem to be the Diva of the fruit world - their skin bruises easily, you can't pick them before they are ripe or else they will go bad, you can't pick them well into their ripeness, and they have a very short shelf life. Is it really worth all the trouble, then? Why yes. Yes it is.

I had the pleasure of meeting Moore at a book signing at South Main Book Juggler and I have to say that it was truly a delight meeting him. Here was a man who could easily be called an authority of pawpaws; after reading the book, I know it for sure.

Pawpaws To The People!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Samurai and the Teashop Owner - Three


Consider this to be the "prequel" of the Samurai and Teashop Owner poetry I've been posting lately. This is a snippet that will continue on as the characters speak to me.

Arigato.


(Taken at Memphis Botanical Gardens)


One upon a time, or so the mystics claim, the rain fell in a steady pattern when he arrived at the teashop. She drank from her small cup as she watched him slowly walk down the path that led to her place of business. When he reached the lower step, he carefully raised his head and looked at her directly in the eyes as she leaned against the entry way. She raised her cup to him and he nodded. I am in need of a place to stay for the night, he said in a quiet tone, as if he thought of every word before saying it. So I see, she replied with a trace of honour. Please, she said as she stood aside, come inside and get dry. The samurai nodded as he walked up the stairs. She moved to one of the walls as he walked by her. The teashop owner smiled as a faint yet detectable scent of cherry blossoms wafted from his soaked clothing. She noticed that his clothing looked to be quite worn and that his hair was messy, yet she placed her cup on the table and said, Give me a moment to prepare a room. Sit here and I shall bring you food and tea. The samurai nodded again as she left him then sat down at one of the tables and placed his katana on the floor next to him. He stared out of the windows for a while, watching the rain continue to fall, then looked down at his weapon. How many times have I brought down an enemy against my Lord?, he thought. How many times have I taken the head of this one or that, to claim the right and power of him? He sighed then closed his eyes. He could still hear their screams, feel the splash of warm blood against his face. He fought them by his Code, the one that all samurai must learn and follow to the death. And yet . . . He opened his eyes and looked down at his weapon once more. I . . . am tired, he thought.

Some time later, the teashop owner returned to the main room with tea and steamed buns on a tray, along with grilled mackerel that smelled quite delightful. The samurai felt his stomach growl as she placed the items before him with a quiet grace then sat down next to him. Itadakimasu, he said as he nodded at her then picked up his chopsticks and began to eat. The teashop owner poured his tea then reached for her cup and sipped from it. You have come from a long way, she said in a form of conversation. I can smell the cherry blossoms on you. The samurai stopped eating then nodded. We haven't seen the cherry blossoms in quite some time here, she continued. Tell me, mighty samurai, why do you feel of defeat? The samurai stared at his food, his appetite somewhat diminished. I prefer not to answer such a question, he said as he took his cup in his hand, until I learn your name. My name?, she asked with a soft smile. Why must you know that? Because I need to give prayer to the spirits in thanks to you for this, he replied. She lowered her eyes then looked at him. My name is Murasaki, she replied as she sipped from her cup. And you? I am Fumio, he replied. Murasaki finished her cup then got up and left the room, while Fumio continued to eat by the rhythm of the falling rain.

To Be Continued . . .


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Colourless Man





Haruki Murakami is one of those authors in which everything they write feels like a dream. Or nightmare, depending on how you look at things in the world. In Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, a young man discovers just how much his life affected others even when he thought he was"colourless" to do anything.

Meet Tsukuru Tazaki, a young Japanese man who thinks of Death. He lives a very normal and ordinary life with no passion because he feels he should die. In fact, the desire came from when, after moving to Tokyo from his hometown of Nagoya, his four friends from school cut him off for good. His friends were all named after colours except for him, and he felt as though they all lead colourful lives. He was simply, as he thought, the bland one. However, once he is cut from his friends, Tazaki undergoes a kind of Death and then Rebirth, changing him for the better. And it is during this transformation that, thanks to a woman he's seeing, he decides to go on a pilgrimage to learn the truth behind his exile. Murakami also weaves in stories within the main story - the one regarding a man named Midorikawa (green river) who stays in a hot springs resort was beautiful to read.

This entire book read like a dream, one that I hated to leave. Tazaki felt as though he was a soul aimlessly wandering around Japan (and Finland), yet that was far from the truth. As he learns during his pilgrimage, he was the one who was the most solid of the group. He was the one that everyone relied upon, even when they cast him away from the group. Due to a horrible accusation, the four knew that he would make it because he was just that strong - that colourful. And in learning that truth, Tazaki realizes that he can finally live and love in a world filled with colour, just for him.

Arigato gozaimasu!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Vive le Bohemian France!





Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) by Francoise Sagan  is ultimately France from a Bohemian point of view. Sagan wrote the book when she was only 18 years old, yet the story has a feeling of worldliness, experience, and adulthood. The story is thus: Cecile, a 17 year old girl, is our narrator as she and her father live their lives to the fullest in all aspects. Her father is "involved" with a younger woman named Elsa, cementing the trio as solid . . . but only for so long. During one summer, as Cecile and her father are on summer vacation, they receive a visitor - Anne, a friend of Cecile's deceased mother. Distinguished and graceful, she enters their lives once more with much poise and grace, thereby ensnaring Cecile's father and kicking Elsa to the curb. Thus begins Cecile's plan to get things back to the way they were, although consequences will be seriously paid.

I read this book in three sittings and enjoyed every minute of it. Sagan's descriptions enhanced the overall reading pleasure and made it more than just a book written by an 18 year old French girl. Love, despair, jealousy, sex, and even regrets play rather well with each other in this book. Seeing as how I'm a Francophile anyway, Bonjour Tristesse was like eating a delicious croissant with a hint of almond in it (yes, I love almond croissants and would actually pursue a degree in how to search for the perfect one, but I digress . . . actually, that might be a really cool blog post . . . )

Anyway.

EX LIBRIS!

VIVE LE FRANCE!





Sunday, April 16, 2017

Child of God, Son of the Devil





First, let me wish each and every one of you a Happy Easter!

Now, on to the book review!

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy left me shivering and not because I was cold. This gritty Southern Gothic novel is slim yet will stay with you for a very long time. In the backwoods of Tennessee lives Ballard, a young man who has been falsely accused of rape. When he is released, Ballard then turns his poisoned mind towards his fellow man and shows them just "what fer". Setting fire to a house means nothing to him, nor does killing people with a blast from his shotgun. He does not live, only merely exists beyond the grace of God yet with the full blessing of the Devil himself. Some of Ballard's actions were evil, while others left me realizing that there was truly something wrong with him mentally. His "end" was suitable for such a life lived.

I got hooked on McCarthy's sparse style of writing while reading No Country for Old Men - the lack of punctuation, the raw feeling exhibited by his characters, the backgrounds that are harsh and unforgiving. After that, I knew I had to read more of his work. Child of God threw me right back into McCarthy's "world" and I loved every minute of it. You are locked into his writing from the first page. Actually, you are strapped into your chair, given no water, and made to look at each scene unfold into its gory beauty. Reading No Country for Old Men was such an experience out West (the film was the same!) and Child of God was the repeat performance in Tennessee.

EX LIBRIS!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Mysterious Continent





I turn around one last time to view my home for the past several weeks. Cold. Way below freezing. Death. And yet, I'm sad to leave, because as I stated before, it was my home for several weeks. Sighing, I turn towards the ship and board. As someone hands me a cup of hot tea, I sit by a window and watch the ship bid farewell to Antarctica, the Mysterious Continent. After having a dream that I visited the ice continent and took in the wonders there, I decided to learn more about this place. All I knew of Antarctica was that it was the only continent not inhabited by humans, with ice and snow and temperatures I've never experienced before.

I was dead, dead wrong.

Thanks to the fabulous Gabrielle Walker, Antarctica comes alive through her words in the book Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent. She speaks Science in such a way that everyone can understand and learn from with ease. From the first page of her Introduction to the last page inciting hope to save the continent from global warming, you'll feel as through you're right there with her, braving every moment of sheer frozen terror and wonderful discoveries. As much as I enjoyed the book, I didn't want it to end. Walker's writing is just that good. Plus, the people she met were colourful and eccentric  - you had to be in order to be there.

The explorers Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton braved the continent with hardly the equipment used today. They dared to do what others could not and would not do. And, because of them and many others, Antarctica is a little more understandable and still just as mysterious. From those who dig deep into the ice for core samples that date several thousands, if not millions, of years old, to those who survey the landscape and feel as though they are on the planet Mars, Walker shows us that Antarctica is not for the faint of heart. It is for the different heart. Eccentric seal and penguin watchers, children being born there so they can claim that they are Antarticans, even a gift shop that provides coffee mugs and souvenirs.  There's even a sickness known as going "toast" when you lose all sense of self and just . . . exist. Actually, not even that.

Many people know that I am an Adventure Seeker and will try (mostly) anything once. Yes, I found myself looking up ways to visit Antarctica on several occasions, all the while wondering how I would pay for such a trip. To explore a place where your neighbours are seals, penguins, whales, strange creatures of the deep, not to mention that your life hangs by a fragile icy thread every time you stepped outside of the camp. . . . yep, I was actually talking myself into it.

To visit Antarctica, as many researchers and scientists informed Walker, is to understand surrender. If you visit with an ego the size of New Jersey, be prepared for it to be coldly crushed. In Antarctica, no one is better or worse than others. Everyone who is stationed there is equal, although that wasn't the case not too long ago between men and women. However, everyone plays a part to assist in keeping everyone safe, alive, and healthy there. One screw up could cost some one's life.

This book was a phenomenal read - I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone.

So, with a final wave, I say goodbye to Antarctica, a la Midnight Oil.


EX LIBRIS!



Sunday, April 9, 2017

The UNOFFICIAL Order of the Black Silk Playlist





Whenever I'm working on a new manuscript, I create a playlist that evokes the mood of the book. My newest book, Order of the Black Silk, published through ProSe Publications, is no exception. Since the book is now available, I figured I would share several songs from my writing playlist with you. Order a copy of the book, then listen to the playlist while reading it. I hope you enjoy it!

Also, I hope that you'll check out these musicians and their work - truly incredible stuff.



Corvus Corax - Venus Vina Musica



Lacuna Coil - To Myself I Turned



Blue Stahli - ULTRAnumb (Exterminated Remix)



Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Pearls For Swine 




Le Poeme Harmonique - Quand Je Menais Les Chevaux Boire)




Beats Antique - Battle 




Emel Mathlouthi - Stranger 

Friday, April 7, 2017

~ growth in cracks ~





As we walked on the sidewalk, she pointed at the sky and informed me that the clouds were dancing. I looked up as well and noticed that the clouds barely moved in the sky. Justine continued that the clouds know secrets we wouldn't be able to understand. I nodded, not really knowing what else to say. She then said that grass that grows through cracks in concrete is proof that we must all push forward, since the grass has been around long before and quite after us. It is the grass and clouds, I said, that give poets the colour to do what they love. We continued our walk under the blue sky, while my mind drifted to Langston Hughes. He and I shared a birthday as well as love for the written word. Did the grass speak to him as it does to my friend? I glanced at Justine, my imaginary real friend, saw how her multicoloured eyes looked at everything as if it were the first time she'd ever seen it. True, I had created her from my mind, yet she took her breath on her own. Those who refuse to die could see her. Those who smell books could feel her fingers on their skin. She looks at you and you can't help but smile. She told me of her home in the Otherworld and how she walks around barefoot. I looked at the cracks on the sidewalk, making sure not to step on the grass that dared to live.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

You Know You Want Her . . . .





Okay, so let me just say that this review is over two years overdue - sorry, Sean Taylor!

Dominique is a woman who lives alone, has few friends, and seems to not have a life . . . except that of a professional dominatrix! She gives pain to those who want it, for a fee of course. When night falls, Dominique dons the leather and thigh high boots with whip in hand, ready to give her clients what they beg and plead for. However, when one of her clients slips up and mentions confidential information to her, Dominique's world is suddenly turned upside down, complete with world domination, bloodthirsty mercenaries, pills that make ordinary people become destructive machines, and a grey clad female assassin named Jacqueline who's completely insane, not to mention a bit talkative. In the span of one night, Dominique transforms from a dominatrix to an almost indestructible superhero!

Welcome to the world of Dominatrix!

Based on an idea by THE Gene Simmons and written by Sean Taylor, this graphic novel will satisfy those who are looking for something different, complete with a well written and engaging story and killer illustrations. Although I first read this graphic novel back in 2014, reading it a second time last night increased my appreciation of the overall story. In fact, I remember how much I used to bug Sean in writing more in this world. Sadly, there won't be any other stories but at least this graphic novel exists. Pick up a copy of Dominatrix TODAY - you won't regret it.

Now, how about some KISS to end this review: